By MARINA WATERS
“His life will affect so many others. And it already has,” Pastor Harold Morelock of Cornerstone Fellowship Church said after the passing of Daniel Boone High School sophomore, Justin Rose. “Out of this tragedy, there’s been a lot of good come out of it.”
Justin was involved in an automobile accident with two other Boone students and an agriculture teacher from Sullivan South. One student returned to school this week while the other will be out of school a bit longer due to her injuries from the wreck that occurred at the intersection of John France Road and Headtown Road in Jonesborough. Justin was the only fatality.
“We’ve actually experienced a wide range of emotions,” Daniel Boone principal Tim Campbell said. “It’s a scary time because we feel like they are our kids just like their parents do. It’s hard to have over 1,300 kids in your family, but that’s how we feel. When one of us hurts, regardless whether it’s a student or a teacher or a faculty member, we all hurt here.”
Campbell said the 1,300 students were silent as they filed into the Bobby Snyder Gymnasium at Boone for a student-led memorial on Friday Feb. 10, just two days after Justin passed away. But after the silence came action from the student body.
“After last Monday, they came in and the entire school was very quiet, still in that shock phase,” Campbell said. “We just kind of let them hurt and lean on each other. But by Tuesday, they showed just how strong they are. And they actually did all types of fundraisers—kids asking, ‘How can we help raise money for the family? What can we do? What can we send to the families?’ It was very, very impressive that our kids’ focus is not on themselves and how bad they feel, but it’s on the three students and their families.”
Students and many in the community have all rallied together to create t-shirts, decals and ribbons to honor Justin and to raise money for his family’s expenses. When the community came together to remember Justin, who was a member of Future Farmers of America and is described by Campbell and Morelock by his contagious smile and his appreciation of the country life, Boone also took the time to remember Kaylee Rabun, the volleyball player who lost her life in a car accident in September 2016.
As Boone students don these ribbons with green for Justin and purple for Rabun, Campbell said the school is still healing from their losses. But they’re also taking up their self-dubbed slogan, “Boone Strong”.
“I guess it’s exactly like losing a family member,” Campbell explained. “For myself and some of the adults, it’s like losing two children. For the students, it’s been like losing a sister in the fall and a brother in the spring. We hurt, but we made the hashtag ‘Boone Strong’. And this has really brought out the strength in numbers. It’s caused each of us I think to look at ourselves again and to look at how we treat each other and how we can support each other. There’s still a sadness here and I think there will be for quite some time, just like there was with Kaylee.”
The lives of Justin and Kaylee didn’t just enhance the popularity of the colors green and purple though; the two Boone students have also bridged a gap between different spectrums of the student body.
“Kaylee was an athlete, Justin was more of the FFA side,” Campbell said. “Kaylee was more the academic side, Justin was more of the after-school activities, work-with-his-cattle and farm type. Justin’s saying was ‘cowboy up’. So it’s really two different segments of our school population. But you can see how these accidents have brought all of our kids together. Because in both of the memorials that we had for each one of them, it’s amazing to see 1,300 kids come in the gym and be silent and reverent knowing that their loved one is passed
“We feel fortunate in that we had each of them here for the time that we shared with them. I guess it just makes you realize how precious life is.”
For members of the community like Pastor Morelock, who led the prayer vigil on the night Justin passed away, it’s Boone’s strength through these two losses that impresses them the most.
“They’ve been through it. They know what they have to do to get through it. And they’re strong enough to do it with the Lord’s help,” Morelock said. “They know who to rely on. Just seeing those kids in the middle of that floor on their knees praying just shows the strength that school has. It’s just amazing to see in young children the amount of faith they’ve got and the strength that they have. Will it be a hard time? Absolutely, but they’ll have the spirit to get through it.”
Silence filled the halls and the gym throughout the days after Justin’s passing, but now Campbell is seeing more than just fundraisers and unity from Daniel Boone High School—he’s seeing a more thoughtful student body than anyone might have expected.
“It seems to me that each person is trying to be a little better, to treat others with a little more respect and to value life,” Campbell said. “I’m always the one telling the students to be careful and to have a good weekend. I’ve had students come to me this past week as they go home headed to the buses or to their cars and they’ve stopped and said, ‘Be careful’ to me.
“You know that the message that each person here is valuable to someone else has reached them. We’ll try to heal together. It’ll be a pain here—we’ll miss Justin for a long time—but again, if we lean on each other, we can make it through this. It won’t be a pleasant experience, but we can.”
Donations are being accepted for the Rose family through the Daniel Boone FFA alumni group. T-shirts are also available on the Daniel Boone homepage at http://www.wcde.org/education/components/layout/default.php?sectionid=11